Insurance Executive

Four Questions for Aspen’s Pat Hickey

Accumulation risk due to the increased size of marine vessels is something marine underwriters are keeping a keen eye on.
By: | July 6, 2017 • 4 min read
Topics: Claims | Marine | Underwriting

In April of 2017, the International Union of Marine Insurance underwriters, or IUMI, released a report pointing to increased energy losses and accumulation risks for marine underwriters. Pat Hickey, Executive Vice President, Marine, at Aspen Insurance shared with Risk & Insurance some of this thoughts on IUMI’s findings.

R&I: Grounding losses in particular are increasing sharply, according to IUMI. What’s at play here? What factors are leading to this?

PH: This is a very interesting, and disturbing, trend where human error is most likely the root cause. The question is what is driving it? I believe it is multi-faceted; however, there is evidence that we have become overly dependent on electronic navigation and enhanced technology to make decisions for us. Accordingly, we are losing critical human interaction and judgment to avoid these incidents.

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In addition, we must also consider general distraction due to mobile phones, tablets and other technologies unrelated to vessel navigation.  In January of 2016, an incident occurred on the Mississippi River near New Orleans involving tank barges and towing vessels that caused $60 million in damages to the vessels and docks. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the captain of one of the towing vessels was on a personal call on his mobile phone just prior to the collision.

R&I: Given the losses we’re seeing, what changes might risk managers and insureds see going forward in aspects of the marine transit losses underwriters are willing to cover?

PH: Marine underwriters need to be flexible and creative, to cover global maritime risks, and very few risks are exactly the same. It’s incumbent on marine underwriters to know their customers’ exposures so they can build manuscript coverages around those unique risks.   As losses increase, skilled marine underwriters will look to partner with their customers to minimize, or eliminate, those risks. When we partner with a dedicated customer willing to work with our risk engineers, there are few challenges we cannot solve together. When we do not see the expected level of engagement or willingness to address losses, we may consider utilizing exclusions and higher retentions. We prefer to provide broad coverage to partners who focus on risk management since that can drive down both losses and premiums.

It would be naive for us to suggest that ports operating 24/7 with increased accumulation exposure are not at risk.

R&I: Accumulation risk in ports, notably those in China, is a concern, according to IUMI’s report. The explosion in Tianjin was such a serious incident on many levels. How likely is it that we could see another event on the scale of a Tianjin and why?

PH: Tianjin was perhaps the perfect storm; however, we need to consider the underlying exposures and regulations that could contribute to a future event. The vast increase in the size of cargo vessels quickly translates to greater exposure per vessel, and significantly greater exposure at major port facilities.  While steamship lines and ports do an exceptional job of quickly and safely moving freight, a relatively simple error of misdeclared cargo (e.g. hazardous materials) could end up causing a catastrophic loss. It would be naive for us to suggest that ports operating 24/7 with increased accumulation exposure are not at risk.

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R&I: Discussions are under way in our nation’s capital on increasing the coastal areas that would be open to oil drilling. After a relatively calm period of drilling exploration, what are the risks and opportunities for energy insureds and their marine underwriting carriers should drilling markedly increase again?

PH: These are very exciting discussions for the marine and energy industries in general. The expansion would require the deployment of fleets for drilling with accompanying support vessels. Further, it is possible that some dormant equipment in the Gulf of Mexico could be redeployed to the coasts. This would also create additional employment opportunities for displaced Gulf oil and gas professionals, and ultimately boost revenue for the sector. As a direct result, marine underwriters would see immediate additional opportunities on these risks that could help grow premiums. There are additional risks associated with possible expansion and these include incidents that cause pollution, loss of life, habitat damage, or impacts to areas not prepared to quickly respond to disasters. Overall, I believe the opportunities outweigh the risks.  I am confident that marine underwriters and risk engineers could help clients mitigate these risks.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

High Net Worth

High Net Worth Clients Live in CAT Zones. Here’s What Their Resiliency Plan Should Include

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

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Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

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Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

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“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]